More WBC players try MetaCheckers tactics in second world tournament

Enemy attacks exposed both kings in the early stages of the 2017 MetaCheckers final at the World Boardgaming Championships in Seven Springs, Pa. Victory hung on which could reach safety.

The showdown between Bradley Raszewski and Huston Johnson concluded a tournament with plenty of narrow escapes, “slugfests” and calculated defense. Players kept returning to heat after heat to get a chance at the final.

Johnson had been eliminated in the third rounds of the First and Second Heats before finally winning the Fourth Heat to reach the Semi-Finals. He won that match against alternate Mark Love to face Raszewski for the championship.

But when both king checkers lost their defenders in the final, Raszewski’s king made it back to a stronghold and Huston’s ultimately got trapped in a corner by two attackers. Raszewski of Pasadena, Maryland, finished him off with a Queen 6 roll.

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Final move in MetaCheckers tournament: Bradley Raszewski kills the king with a Queen 6 to defeat Huston Johnson. #bpa_wbc17

In MetaCheckers, checkers move like chess pieces based on a roll of special dice. One die has chess symbols. The other has standard pips to indicate numbers. Roll a king, pawn or knight, and the player can choose any checker to move as a king, pawn or knight. Roll a queen, rook or bishop, and the numbers die dictates how far a piece must move as a queen, rook or bishop. Players use these moves to try to capture the opponent’s king checker.

In its second year at the WBC tournaments, MetaCheckers saw more players enter and more games played. Player starts jumped from 60 the previous year to 108 in 2017. Of the 31 players in this year’s tournament, nine played in the First Heat, 16 in the Second Heat, 12 in the Third Heat.

“We brought you more players!” said Zarabeth Goddard at the start of the Fourth Heat, which had 20 entrants. Of those, 14 had played in earlier heats.

“MetaCheckers is a fantastic game,” said Goddard, who had played in the 2016 tournament. “It’s great for all ages from 80 to 5. It’s a super easy game to learn.”

To win the game, “think ahead, but not too far ahead,” she said.

In the First Heat, Bradley Raszewski defeated his father, Steven with a Knight roll. That led to a game against Trevor Schoenen, which he won on a Bishop 6.

“He was very good,” Bradley said of Trevor. Bradley had fallen behind on pieces and lost all but his king checker before the win.

“It was quite exciting,” said Trevor, who finished in Fifth Place.

Kevin Wojtasczyk won the Second Heat against the 2016 Second Place finisher, Mark Love. A Queen 6 won the game for Wojtasczyk after a long battle of attrition in which at the end Kevin had five pieces to Mark’s two.

Brian Mountford, who had been the 2016 Third Place finisher, defeated 2016 champion Dalton Versak to win Heat Three.

“He was in a strong position,” Brian said of Dalton. “But I got in the back row.”

This left Versak’s king in a vulnerable position with an enemy piece in a spot difficult to attack. Multiple pawn rolls by Dalton doomed his king.

Huston won Heat Four with a double-diagonal attack against Gordon Stewart. He had taken a piece protecting the king checker on the diagonal, and that had another piece backing it up on a diagonal line behind it. Stewart rolled a pawn, and his only choice was to use his king checker to capture the first attacking piece. Then Huston rolled a Bishop 6 and the second attacking piece took the king.

Stewart finished in Sixth Place.

Because of a schedule conflict, Mountford could not make the Semi-Final and Mark Love stepped in as alternate. Huston Johnson defeated Love on a King roll in the Semi, and Bradley Raszewski defeated Kevin Wojtasczyk with a Rook 6 to set up the final between Raszewski and Johnson.

As this year’s champion, Bradley won a copy of the Kangaroo edition of MetaCheckers in its new 6-inch tall, red-and-white canister. The Kangaroo die, which is not used in tournament play, is an expansion, which adds 6 extra moves to the game. The next 5 finishers also won games as prizes.

DreamGames hopes to bring MetaCheckers back to the WBC in 2018. If the basic game can be voted into the tournament, we may be able to submit our new game “MetaCheckers: Soccer” as a trial game next year.

NOTE: A rules issue from the 2016 tournament may have a solution. What to do when all checkers but the kings are eliminated? When this situation arose in a 2016 game, a draw was improperly declared after several moves without a result. But later it was determined a win would still be possible in this situation so long as both opponents were earnestly trying to capture the enemy king.

But this solution offers vague direction to the players. So, here is the new idea: “Crushing Walls.”

This would take advantage of the cloth board used in MetaCheckers. When all but the king checkers are eliminated, the “Crushing Walls” scenario would begin. Both players would have 10 turns, and if a win has not occurred, the walls of the game would “crush” in on the board.

To do this, the players would just fold the edges of the cloth to cover the outer rows and columns of the board, creating a smaller 6×6 board. Any king caught in the now-covered outer squares of the board would be “crushed” and the opponent would win. If neither is caught in the crushing walls, the game would continue on the 6×6 board with each player given another 10 turns before the walls “crushed” again.

This was tried at the vendor booth, and it seemed to work well.

What do you think of this solution? Let me know at edwardbondny@gmail.com.

  • Ed Bond

http://www.metacheckers.com

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Here’s some of our favorite photos from the tournament and visit to Seven Springs.

 

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Debut of the new MetaCheckers

Our trip to the World Boardgaming Championships in July was not only the first international MetaCheckers tournament.

It was also the debut of the complete version of MetaCheckers at a major event. In our previous convention appearances, MetaCheckers had been played on standard tournament chessboards. While players still got a taste of the game, it was unsatisfying to only be able to sell the checkers and dice.

Selling tournament chessboards would be too expensive, and they also didn’t fit well with the MetaCheckers motif. MetaCheckers is not chess or checkers. It is a unique fusion of the games. It deserved its own look. Its own utility. The players I talked to wanted something portable, easy-to-carry and affordable.

Having boards printed and packaged in game boxes would also drive up the cost. But I gave it a try anyway. The result looked good, but I winced at the sticker shock. The boxes and boards could double the price.

At the Hudson Valley Comic Con in May, someone mentioned he usually carried his game pieces in a bandana so he could play anywhere. This prompted me to start experimenting with various cloth versions. With my limited sewing abilities, I made prototypes with iron-on patterns to created a zippered pouch.

Another thought was just to use snaps or cords to tie it all together.

Finally, I just went with the simple bandana approach. I found a company that screenprints custom images on bandanas in bulk. So, I sent them an order.

I got this, and was very pleased:

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Yes! Simple, portable and affordable. A unique look that sets the game apart from chess and checkers. This is what MetaCheckers is all about.

Then it was a matter of the packaging. The cloth boards just barely fit inside the bag with the checkers and dice, but it was too tight a fit to make it user-friendly. After some advice and trial-and-error, we came up with a system of wrapping the cloth boards around the checkers bag and holding the whole thing together with a paper band.

So, it came out looking like this:

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Eureka!

The response at WBC was very positive. People liked the unique, fun game that was low-cost and came in a Xmas “stocking stuffer” size. Yes, some customers were already looking ahead for holiday presents.

The game is now available on Amazon and local stores in the Elmira area. Now that we have a good format and the game passed its first major audition, we will be expanding to more stores and vendors soon. Keep an eye out for MetaCheckers near you!

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#boardgames

 

First International MetaCheckers Tournament

 

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Dalton Versak (left) vs. Kevin McCaffery in Heat 2 of the MetaCheckers tournament.

Dalton Versak strongly disagreed with the MetaCheckers slogan on the kiosk.

“This is NOT easier than chess,” he said as he struggled with a decision in Heat 2 of the MetaCheckers tournament at the World Boardgaming Championships in Seven Springs, Pa. on July 28.

And yet, Dalton of Philadelphia survived to become the first international champion in MetaCheckers.

In MetaCheckers, checkers move like chess pieces based on a roll of special dice. One die has chess symbols. The other has standard pips to indicate numbers. Roll a king, pawn or knight, and the player can choose any checker to move as a king, pawn or knight. Roll a queen, rook or bishop, and the numbers die dictates how far a piece must move as a queen, rook or bishop. Players use these moves to try to capture the opponent’s king checker.

This sounds simple enough, but as the game develops, players are forced to make some tough choices. Sometimes the best available checker to eliminate an attacking piece is also guarding the king from another direction. So, they have to make a decision. Which attack is more likely to kill the king? Which defense will save it?

On the other hand, since any checker can move according to the roll of the dice, this means even the king checker can move as a knight … or a rook … or even a queen. So, the kings can participate in their own defense, attacks and escape. A player could be down to only the king checker against multiple pieces of the opponent and still win.

This is what happened during Heat 4 for Mark Love, who finished second in the tournament. About his game against Terry Masten of Delaware he says:

“My opponent eliminated ALL of my pieces except for my king. For a moment, I thought how silly it would be for me to prolong the game by trying to run and hide, since he had 5 Easy Pieces. After he took my last other piece, I got a bishop move and moved my king from my right center area of the board to the other side of the board, directly toward his king, with his other pieces all around me. Oddly, none of his pieces could take me out in that position. He got a king roll, and moved a non-king piece to try to get a better shot at me. I got a knight roll, which was exactly what I needed for the win. We were both shocked.”

Mark went on to win second place, losing when Dalton rolled a Rook 5 to capture Mark’s king in the final. At the end, Mark had 4 pieces left, and Dalton had 6.

MetaCheckers was invented in Horseheads, N.Y., by Ed and Jack Bond, who founded DreamGames. This is their first year bringing the game to conventions for sales, demos and tournaments. The players at the World Boardgaming Championships tested the game to its limits.

At other conventions and demos in the Northeast, games typically finished within 10 to 15 minutes. At the WBC, determined players pushed games to 20 minutes or more. And although it had been thought that draws were not possible in MetaCheckers, Dalton and Francois de Bellefeuille of Montreal proved that wrong. In a semi-final game, Dalton and Francois eliminated all pieces except their kings.

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Dalton Versak and Francois de Bellefeuille battle it out King Vs. King in a semi-final game which was eventually declared a draw.

While this would make a draw automatic in chess, in MetaCheckers a victory is still possible. However, after 20 moves without a result, the players and GM agreed to declare a draw. Francois then lost to Mark Love and Dalton eliminated Brian Mountford [With a Bishop 5 roll; Brian with only his king at the end] to set up the final. However, the next day other players reported a non-tournament game that came down to just kings but eventually had a winner. That game took 30 minutes to finish. So, even with only kings, victory is possible so long as both players are earnestly trying to capture the opponent’s king. This may require a minor adjustment in the rules or the use of a time limit in future tournaments.

We had a great time and were very happy to see so many turn out to play a new game in its debut season. DreamGames plans to bring MetaCheckers back for future tournaments and hopes WBC members will vote to support it. MetaCheckers can be played with 4 opening layouts and 5 game variations. By next year, we should have 2 or 3 additional games to unveil.

Here’s some of our favorite pics from the tournament:

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